The future of computers. Keyboards and mouse
One step ahead
In the previous posts, I talked about the future of computers. I pointed out the marketing strategies that are on the table both for the short-term and mid-term duration. Today, I will talk about the future of the keyboard and the mouse as they play a significant role in the future of computers.
Here, I will go one step further than what I share in my posts. I let myself dream about the far, far future. I go beyond what the marketing strategies can predict. These are not forecasts. I imagine how the future will be or how I want it to be.
The future of keyboard is voice
The best way to introduce information into the computer is through voice. We are at the beginning of these technologies. Currently, there are numerous voice assistants like Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa.
You can also check out the other posts where I explain voice assistants in more detail:
Voice assistants could make us think that keyboards and mouse will disappear. Though, it is a well-known fact that there are some circumstances when written text is and will remain more suitable for introducing information into the computer. Here is a list of four possible reasons:
- Confidentiality. Sometimes we do not want other people around us to know what we are doing. While in the train, the bar, the library, or with family. We need to preserve our privacy.
- Maintain silence. In some cases, when we do not want to disturb other individuals around us.
- Long elaborated text. Voice is suitable for some commands or for sending short e-mails. In important messages, blog posts, articles or books we need to be precise. Written text will always be suitable in those cases.
- Graphics, sketches, and drawings. We present better some concepts with graphics. Sometimes, drawings are the best way to communicate feelings.
I think voice will be more important as a way to introduce information into the computer. At the same time, we will always need alternative methods. Now we have the keyboard, the trackpad, and the digital pencils. Let's see how they will evolve.
Keyboard and trackpad
It is easy to imagine a keyboard that also serves as a trackpad simultaneously. In fact, in 2016 we already have some products that drive us towards that idea.
(Remember that the trackpad or touchpad is what allows us to move the cursor on the computer screen. We use it to substitute the mouse in laptops).
All tablets and phones have virtual keyboards. We can use the screen as trackpad or keyboard. The limitation of virtual keyboards is that we cannot feel the keys. We need to look at our fingers to ensure we click on the correct keys. The hands do not allow us to see the keys correctly, and as such, we cannot concentrate on the resultant text while typing. That makes things less comfortable and much slower than using a conventional physical keyboard.
Some companies have launched laptops with a unique working surface. That space can change from keyboard to trackpad. But they failed to solve the fundamental problem that I mentioned.
Others have created physical keys that can be customizable. That offers users flexibility, but we cannot use them as a trackpad.
Apple keyboard evolution
Over the last years, each new Apple keyboard is smaller than the previous one. The keys are less high, too. With the MacBook 2015 (the non-Pro model) they made a big leap. Apple introduced a new underlying mechanism. With that, they were able to make the keyboard and the whole computer much thinner.
We all need time to adapt to a new keyboard. The last Apple keyboard represented change on a very large scale and will require more time.
It seems that Apple is teaching us. However, I am not sure if it forms part of a plan or not. The fact is that we are all adapting to a new way to type. That leaves the door open to the next step.
The flat keyboard
In this evolution, it is logical to expect the keys with no travel at all. It could be a flat surface. It has distinct advantages.
- Keyboard and trackpad all in one. In the same space, we could have the keys and the trackpad. We could move the cursor around and write text at the same place.
- Trackpad and pen, at the same time. We could use the finger for any fast, intuitive action. The pencil is ideal for more precise activities like drawing and taking hand notes.
- Thin and light. The flat surface will facilitate a thinner and lighter computer.
- Fast typing. If we do not need to press hard, we do not need to lift "up" the fingers. We will be able to slide across the keyboard and write much faster.
But, as I said earlier, we need to feel the keys. We should find a way to know where our fingers are to concentrate all our attention on the resultant text. That is the big problem.
No one solved that. However, Apple has some technologies that let us imagine that it could be possible.
Force Touch, 3D Touch, and the future keyboard
With Force Touch and 3D Touch, we have the sensation that we click. In reality, there is no key, no movement up and down.
For more information about 3D Touch, see my post:
Perhaps Apple could take that technology and evolve it into a virtual keyboard. We need the “click” feeling, but we also need to distinguish the limits and the shape of each letter.
It seems that we are far from that, but Force Touch and 3D Touch can make us dream. They are technologies that open our mind to many possibilities.
The future mouse
A unique surface for the keyboard and the trackpad is the dream of a distant future. Before that, a trackpad with a pencil seems a closer possibility.
The finger is the fastest way to move things around. The pen is better to be precise. We need that to draw and to write hand notes.
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 already has a new huge trackpad. On desktops, there is the Magic Trackpad that substitutes the mouse if you want. They both could be the ideal surface for a precise pointer. Remember that we already have the Apple Pencil. Currently, it only works in the iPads brands that they call Pro.
A trackpad with a big surface would be much better than any mouse. The finger is fast and intuitive. The pencil is precise and lets us do complicated things. That pen could be magnetically attached to one side of the trackpad, easy to access at any moment, difficult to lose.
Marketing, technology, and keyboards
Marketing tries to define the needs of a group of people. Then it organizes resources in the form of a company to meet those needs. Introduce information into the computer and preserve the privacy at the same time. That is what the keyboard and mouse are doing now. Technology is fighting to solve that problem in a more efficient way.
The marketing strategies need to evolve. They are not well defined, yet. It is still early.
What we already see is that Apple is not only answering what the consumer asks. They also try to guess what they want even when they do not express it in an explicit way.
Most of the consumers feel comfortable with noisy clicking keyboards and big keys. Many are asking for that. I see many critics with the new Apple keyboards.
I appreciate that Apple takes risks. They go beyond what people say and try to solve the big problem in the long run. To achieve that, they have to accept the short-term criticism.
Apple is the only one that pushes us beyond our comfort zone. Educates us to try new things. The new Apple keyboards and trackpads are challenging. We need time to adapt, get used to the new way of doing. In the end, we will have a better way to solve our global problem as I described.
The voice is evolving fast to be the main way of introducing information into the computer. At the same time, we will also need a keyboard in some cases.
The future keyboard could be flat. Keys with no travel seem possible. The problem no one has solved till now is how to recognize the limits of each letter with the fingertips.
The future of mouse could be a trackpad with a pencil magnetically attached to one side. The next step is the integration of keyboard, mouse and trackpad in the same space.
These are just dreams of how the future could be.
This is part of a series dedicated to the future of computers. For more detailed information see the other posts:
The future of computers. The near future
The future of computers. Mid and long term
The future of computers. The infografic
The future of computers. MacBook Pro
The future of computers. Keyboards and mouse
All the posts